Phalaborwa's Big Hole | iinfo TZANEEN

Kimberley is known for its Big Hole. But did you know Phalaborwa has a Big Hole of its own?
The small mining town of Phalaborwa began to grow when the Palabora Mining Company started its operations in 1956. Refined copper was extracted from the ground during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s by means of open cast mining. The open-pit mine produced over 2.7 million tons of copper. You can imagine that this pit had to be deep and wide in order to get all that copper to the surface. It is claimed to be the widest man-made hole in Africa and can actually be seen from space. It is almost 2,000 meters in diameter and 762 meters deep. Which, by the way, is 230 meters under sea-level.
Huge trucks would drive the spiralling road, carved out of the walls of the hole, to the bottom to collect copper-rich rubble after which they would slowly drive the 7km long road back up to the surface. Once a year the trucks would stop driving up and down for a few hours to allow the Copper Pit Race to take place. Athletes from all over would come to Phalaborwa to run in this challenging race to the bottom of the pit where temperatures could soar to 40C. After coming back up they would finish the gruelling race at the Hans Merensky Golf Club.
In 2002, after 38 years of excavating, Rio Tinto, then owners of the mine, declared that the open pit was at its maximum depth and mining moved to newly set up underground mines. Luckily they did this, as in 2006 60 tons of mass collapsed into the pit and cracks appeared as far as 300 meters away from the pits rim.
To get a fantastic view of this open pit, take a drive up to the viewpoint, located in the mining area of Phalaborwa along the gravel road to the Lepelle Water Board. The road is somewhat challenging at times with loose stones around each bend but the view is worth it!

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